“Seeing is believing” reflects trust in the untrustworthy
The Bhagavad-gita (15.10) warns us against unwittingly subscribing to the childish idea of “seeing is believing.” This idea, known in philosophical parlance as naïve realism, is the primitive belief system in which one imagines that reality is the way it appears to be. This belief system is based on an unquestioning trust in our senses as conveyors of reality. However, such trust is highly questionable because the senses provide us a link to reality that is ontologically inadequate and operationally unreliable. Let’s see how:
- Ontologically inadequate: The senses being material can never give us access to the nonmaterial dimensions of reality: God, the soul, the spiritual world.
- Operationally unreliable: The senses subject us to a variety of misperceptions by making us see what doesn’t exist, as in the case of mirages.
No wonder then that Gita wisdom deplores as misled those who unthinkingly trust their senses, believing that what looks good is actually good. Such people self-righteously sentence themselves to the sufferings of material existence. Worse still, they deprive themselves of the life of meaning and fulfilment that awaits them at the invisible spiritual level in loving service to Krishna.
Instead of trusting the untrustworthy senses that are inadequate and unreliable guides to reality, Gita wisdom urges us to trust scriptural vision for gaining a fuller and safer picture of reality. This vision of reality integrates our longing for immortality and our longing for love in a magnificently coherent Krishna-centered worldview. And the practice of devotional service transforms this intellectual vision into an experienced reality.
Thus it is that Gita wisdom urges us to see beyond what looks good to what is actually good: our personal, spiritual and eternal relationship with Krishna.
“The foolish cannot understand how a living entity can quit his body, nor can they understand what sort of body he enjoys under the spell of the modes of nature. But one whose eyes are trained in knowledge can see all this.”